When is the distinction between science fields applicable?

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In summary, it seems like physics and engineering are two very different things, with different purposes. Engineers are more concerned with efficiency and practicality, while physicists are more concerned with understanding the natural world.
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random_soldier
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Something I have been thinking about and don't really have a good answer to.

For context, let's take physics and engineering for example. From my understanding, a very rough definition of physics would be the study of naturally occurring physical phenomena and understanding how they work. Engineering, again in my words, would be the application of known and well understood phenomena to create systems to achieve needs that people may have, even if that is just to better study some physics that cannot be studied properly by currently and readily available systems.

Now, to my understanding, study of dark matter or even designing a system to study it would still very much be physics as the properties do not seem well understood to my knowledge and any system designed to detect/study it would also require figuring out the physics to do so.

On the other extreme, designing a new efficient irrigation or traffic light system with the help of some new tech like internet of things or artificial intelligence would seem very much like engineering as there is no new phenomena being studied, as far as I can see into this hypothetical. All phenomena and systems are well understood and simply being rearranged for higher efficiency.

Now I don't know where to draw the line in, for example, IC development. Do electrical engineers simply never dabble in or encounter unknown physical phenomena when trying to stretch the limits of what ICs can do? Or do they just write their engineering portions and understanding and leave it to the physicists to figure out the rest? Or does it not count as physics altogether if you discover that even though the phenomena was previously not understood, it turns out to be well documented upon further study? Or do electrical engineers never do any of that in the first place?

I have similar questions for fusion science. Do engineers working on tokamaks just work on improving system efficiency from known physics while physicists think about what they see and what they want to see?
 
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random_soldier said:
For context, let's take physics and engineering for example. From my understanding, a very rough definition of physics would be the study of naturally occurring physical phenomena and understanding how they work. Engineering, again in my words, would be the application of known and well understood phenomena to create systems to achieve needs that people may have, even if that is just to better study some physics that cannot be studied properly by currently and readily available systems pool
It is also my personal opinion
Greetings!!
 
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These distinctions matter less in the real world. For complex endeavors, both mindsets are needed in the workforce and from my experience, it is more dependent on personality than degree.
 
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If you have boxes labelled "white" and "black" but you work with grayscale objects, you will always face this kind of a classification problem. Forget about labels, problem solved :wink:
 
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Why is it important to you to make this distinction? Will there be better outcomes somehow?
It is important to apprehend the things you know, and far more important, the things you might not. Having worked both sides of this fence, I think the classification is not often required very seldom useful .
 
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hutchphd said:
Why is it important to you to make this distinction? Will there be better outcomes somehow?
It is important to apprehend the things you know, and far more important, the things you might not. Having worked both sides of this fence, I think the classification is not often required very seldom useful .

I didn't have a good answer either way. So I thought I would ask.

Also never have personally heard nuclear engineers work with nuclear particles of anything higher than MeV range or talk about astrophysical gamma ray spectroscopy despite seeming qualified. Or heard about electrical engineers take a course in QM despite seeming like it would really be helpful in devising new electrical devices (isn't that what the tunneling diode is?).

Though, I am limiting myself to very particular cases. My sample size could also be limited. Or maybe the engineers moved to physics and call themselves physicists or vice versa is why I am seeing one or the other and thinking that they never do the other thing. Or I might just be splitting hairs with my limited information/perspective.
 
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Related to When is the distinction between science fields applicable?

1. When does it become necessary to distinguish between different science fields?

It becomes necessary to distinguish between different science fields when the specificity of knowledge, methodology, and application demands specialized expertise. For instance, while both biology and chemistry study living organisms, biology focuses on the biological processes and structures, whereas chemistry delves into the chemical properties and reactions within those organisms.

2. Why is it important to maintain distinctions between science fields?

Maintaining distinctions between science fields is important to ensure clarity and precision in research, education, and application. Each field has developed unique methodologies, terminologies, and theoretical frameworks that are best suited to address specific types of questions and problems. This specialization allows for more efficient and effective advancements in knowledge and technology.

3. How do interdisciplinary fields fit into the distinction between science fields?

Interdisciplinary fields fit into the distinction between science fields by combining methodologies, theories, and knowledge from multiple traditional disciplines to address complex questions that cannot be adequately tackled by a single field alone. For example, biochemistry merges principles from both biology and chemistry to study the chemical processes within living organisms.

4. Can the boundaries between science fields change over time?

Yes, the boundaries between science fields can change over time as new discoveries are made and as our understanding of the natural world evolves. Advances in technology and research can lead to the development of new fields or the merging of existing ones. For example, the field of molecular biology emerged from the intersection of genetics, biochemistry, and biophysics.

5. What are some challenges associated with distinguishing between science fields?

Some challenges associated with distinguishing between science fields include the potential for siloed thinking, where researchers may overlook valuable insights from other disciplines. Additionally, rigid boundaries can hinder collaboration and innovation. Balancing specialization with interdisciplinary collaboration is crucial to overcoming these challenges and fostering a more integrated approach to scientific inquiry.

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